The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Istanbul mayoral candidate, deputy and former Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum on Jan. 25 announced his projects should he assume office in the local elections to be held on March 31, 2024.
Speaking at the “Istanbul Vision for the Century of Turkey Meeting,” Kurum listed his promises.
Kurum argued that the megacity entered into a “period of stagnation” after Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), took office in 2019.
Before İmamoğlu, Istanbul had been ruled by the AKP or its predecessors for 25 years.
Kurum said he would solve the traffic problem in the megacity and “the reason for this bad trend (in the traffic problem) is the incompetence and insensitivity of the current administration.”
“Of the 40.7 km metro line they said they had opened, in reality they could barely complete 8 km. They canceled ongoing metro projects. We will increase the share of the rail system to 37% in 2029. We plan to increase maritime transportation to four percent. At the end of 10 years, the traffic congestion will end, never to return. We will increase our rail lines to 650 km,” he added.
Kurum said they would decrease the average travel time to 39 minutes from 64 minutes.
He also promised to relocate Esenler and Harem bus stations. “We will establish six logistics centers on both continents. With these two projects, we will move approximately one million heavy vehicle traffic in the city to the periphery.”
He added that they would expand the metrobus line to Silivri district.
Kurum said they would also fix the taxi problem in the megacity by creating a central taxi system. There are 45,786 drivers registered in 18,773 taxis in Istanbul, which has not changed since 1990.
The municipality’s proposals to introduce additional taxis have been met with resistance due to pressure from both the Istanbul Chamber of Taxi Tradesmen and the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Transportation Coordination Center (UKOME) in 2022 only agreed to convert 2,125 surplus minibuses operating across the city into taxis.
Murat Kurum said they would “urgently” transform 600,000 buildings under risk of collapse in a major quake. “In 5 years, not even 5 percent of what was promised has been achieved (by the opposition-run municipality). At this rate, transformation will take 100 years.”
He added that KİPTAŞ, the private construction company of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB), would build 300,000 new buildings. Kurum also promised the establishment of a disaster coordination center at the out-of-use Atatürk Airport.
In other promises targeting families, Kurum said they would establish 24 hour open kindergartens in each neighborhood and offer free transportation to fathers. The municipality under İmamoğlu’s mayorship has started the practice of free transportation for mothers in 2020.
Kurum added that they would apply a 40 percent discount in public transportation fares for students. He also said they would raise the municipality's scholarship for university students from 7,500 to 10,000 liras, of which started under İmamoğlu's mayorship.
As the list went on, Kurum said they wanted to build six new drinking water dams in the megacity and build new public parks and gardens. “We will revive all the squares of Istanbul,” he added.
He also vowed to make Istanbul “a city of festivals.”
“On March 31st, social media municipalism will end and real municipalism will begin,” he concluded.
Ekrem İmamoğlu won 54.22 percent of the votes in 2019 and became Istanbul mayor after 25 years of control by the political Islamist parties.
İmamoğlu is one of the figures targeted frequently by Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ever since his decisive victory in the Istanbul elections in 2019. Infuriated by losing Turkey's largest city to the main opposition, the AKP has been making İmamoğlu face investigations on bogus charges.